The Effect of Bifidobacterium on Reducing Symptomatic Abdominal Pain in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Systematic Review

Pratt C1, Campbell MD2. Probiotics Antimicrob Proteins. 2019 Nov 18. doi: 10.1007/s12602-019-09609-7. [Epub ahead of print]


Author information

School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.

School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK. m.d.campbell@leeds.ac.uk.


Probiotics, specifically Bifidobacteria, may improve abdominal pain in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); however, results from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are conflicting. Here, we systematically reviewed the efficacy of Bifidobacteria on abdominal pain in IBS. We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register from inception to 20 May 2019, without language or date restrictions. The search strategy comprised of the combination of three concepts: supplementation, abdominal pain, and IBS. Inclusion criteria included double-blind placebo-controlled RCTs featuring Bifidobacteria supplementation in Rome-diagnosed IBS patients. A total of 8 RCTs involving a total of 1045 patients with Rome diagnosed IBS were included. The dose of total Bifidobacteria ranged from 106 to > 1011 cfu (colony-forming unit) and duration of supplementation ranged between 2 and 8 weeks. Bifidobacteria was delivered through either intake of fermented milk products, encapsulation or via a malted milk beverage, with all studies assessing abdominal pain via a visual analogue Likert scale. From the studies included, 50% (n = 4) of studies found a statistically significant improvement in abdominal pain following Bifidobacteria supplementation compared to placebo, 38% (n = 3) of studies found non-significant improvements and 12% (n = 1) showed a statistically significant dose-response effect of improvement. The evidence shows a heterogeneity of effect for Bifidobacteria dependent upon strain, dosage and delivery method. While not all studies demonstrate significant improvements in abdominal pain, none of the selected studies reported an increase in pain or other adverse effects.

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